One of the first points of disagreement between mother and son/daughter is often about finishing the peas on the plate. Parents know fruit and vegetables are good for their child, but what we see in today’s society is that themselves don’t eat a healthful diet that often, setting a bad example for their offspring. We know fruit and vegetables are good for us but do they only improve our physical well-being and or do their benefits go beyond that?
“Let them eat fruit!” is the title of an article published this year in PlosOne1, which set out to answer just that. Researchers tested 171 young adults aged 18-25 years old to see if a diet consisting of a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables would have psychological effects on them. For the following 14 days, participants would either be reminded to eat fruit and vegetables via text message or by directly being given two additional portions of fruit and vegetables.
At the end of the two weeks, the young adults who consumed more fruits and vegetables reported higher levels of vitality, flourishing (which assesses feelings of engagement, purpose in life, and social-emotional connectedness), and motivation, compared to the control group. Depressive symptoms, anxiety, or mood didn’t change across the 14 days.
Researchers also concluded that providing participants with fruit and vegetable servings instead of just reminding them to eat them throughout the day, resulted in a greater overall improvement of their well-being.
To have such a positive impact on their well being with just a two-week change really is mind-blowing. It just goes to show, fruit and vegetables are not only good on the long-run, but they also have an immediate effect on our lives.
According to the World Health Organization2, “insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables is estimated to cause around 14% of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, about 11% of ischaemic heart disease deaths and about 9% of stroke deaths globally”. A minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day is recommended to prevent such diseases, a number most of us don’t even come close.
According to a 2011 study3, adolescents eat half of the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables they are supposed to. It would not be surprising to find the same results in adults. But not everything is bad. A positive trend in daily fruit and vegetable consumption among adolescents across most countries was observed between 2002 and 20104, showing that progress may be slow, but it is certainly there.
1 – Conner, T. S., Brookie, K. L., Carr, A. C., Mainvil, L. A. and Vissers, M. C. M. Let them eat fruit! The effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological well-being in young adults: A randomized controlled trial. PLOS ONE, 12(2).
2 – WHO | Promoting fruit and vegetable consumption around the world. (2017). Who.int. Retrieved 19 November 2017, from http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/fruit/en/
3 – Diethelm, K., Jankovic, N., Moreno, L., Huybrechts, I., De Henauw, S., & De Vriendt, T. et al. (2011). Food intake of European adolescents in the light of different food-based dietary guidelines: results of the HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) Study. Public Health Nutrition, 15(03), 386-398.
4 – Vereecken, C., Pedersen, T., Ojala, K., Krolner, R., Dzielska, A., & Ahluwalia, N. et al. (2015). Fruit and vegetable consumption trends among adolescents from 2002 to 2010 in 33 countries. The European Journal Of Public Health, 25(suppl 2), 16-19.